Baseball’s a nine-inning game.
Playing well for eight of them isn’t good enough against a team in a playoff chase.
The Thunder Bay Border Cats learned the lesson the hard way on Saturday night, surrendering five runs in the fourth inning en route to a 6-1 loss to the visiting Waterloo Bucks (13-9).
It’s not that the Cats couldn’t get on base.
They pounded out 10 hits, including a pair by poster-boy Cory Kay, but just couldn’t seem to get one when it counted.
“We’re not hitting when we need to. Tonight we weren’t,” Kay said. “In the past couple of games we’ve been scoring plenty of run. We’ve just got to get the run support from our staff, which they’ve shown they can do.”
There’s no doubt the frustration is starting to rise as the Northwoods League season winds down into its final couple of weeks.
The Border Cats, whose record dropped to a lowly 4-16 in second-half play, the worst in the 18-team circuit, held their own for three innings, starter Charles Thielmann allowing just three hits and just one runner into scoring position.
But things fell apart in a hurry in the fourth.
Leadoff hitter Kevin Kaczmarski blasted a 1-1 pitch over the wall in right, his fifth home run of 2014, to stake the Bucks to a 1-0 lead.
Three straight singles and a walk to Blake Berger and Waterloo was on its way.
Luke Stratman and Jon McAllister added RBI singles of their own and Will Sparks plated one more on a sacrifice fly to make it 5-0 Bucks before Kaczmarski grounded out to first to end the inning.
The Cats got one back in their half of the inning, Jordan Serena singling home Sal Taormina. But catcher Tyler Patterson flew out, leaving the bases loaded as Waterloo starter Landon Simpson (W, 5-0), got out of the toughest jam of his five-inning outing.
Thunder Bay’s bats went silent from there. Simpson set them down in order in the fifth and gave way to reliever Tim Shannon, who gave up just two hits over three innings.
Connor McClain scored the Bucks’ final run of the night in the seventh, taking second on an error by catcher Christian Correa and scoring on an error by first baseman Sal Taormina.
“We played pretty well other than the fourth inning,” Kay said. “But other than that we would have had a really good chance to win. We played well, we hit well, we played defence well.”
The Cats and Bucks, who played in front of 608 fans at Port Arthur Stadium, meet again on Sunday, the first pitch slated for 5:05 p.m.
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